Old Manchester public toilet to become a new vegetarian cafe

A pub landlord is taking over the reins and giving the old loo a new lease of life as the Cloakroom Cafe.

<p>A sketch of how the Cloakroom Cafe will look</p>

A sketch of how the Cloakroom Cafe will look

Cash-strapped councils have closed hundreds of public loos across the country to make savings – and sometimes costs are not the only factor.

One such toilet in South Manchester which has stood derelict for more than a decade was closed down after reports of ‘cottaging’ taking place in the toilets.

But now the old toilet block in Northenden Riverside Park could be brought back into use – as a café.

Derelict toilet block in Northenden Riverside Park, Mill Lane, Manchester. Credit: Manchester City Council.

Pub landlord John Rogers has had the green light from Manchester city council to turn the toilets off Mill Lane into an environmentally-friendly vegetarian café.

Once open, The Cloakroom Café will sell local plant-based products, some even sourced from herbs, fruits and vegetables growing on the site itself.

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Tea and coffee will be locally blended and ethically sourced and most of the fresh sandwiches, cakes, ice cream, drinks and snacks on offer will be vegan – something the up-and-coming suburb still lacks, according to the publican.

Customers will be encouraged to walk or cycle to the café, which is located near a busy car park on the banks of the River Mersey, rather than drive.

A sketch of how the Cloakroom Cafe will look

And John also promises to provide passers-by with a place to pee for free.

“Northenden is our home and we love it,” he said.

“We want to make a difference here rather than travel to other areas to set up shop.

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“We are passionate about food and drink and we want others to experience our passion too.

“Bringing a disused, abandoned building back to life and then using it to bring joy and excitement through food, quality and provenance is our dream, but just as importantly is the way we will do it.

“We will focus on not harming our environment by using of low energy equipment and lighting, zero waste, recycling and reusing.”

John, who is a vegan, has worked in hospitality for more than three decades.

He’s been running The Crown Inn, just three metres from the café, for six years – and although it doesn’t serve food, all of its beers and bar snacks are vegan.

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The lifelong Mancunian says Northenden is ‘punching well above its weight’ these days, with many award-winning eateries gaining recognition recently.

But he believes cafés and restaurants in the area lack a vegetarian and vegan offer ‘in the true sense of the word’, with limited options for non-meat eaters.

Together with his vegetarian partner, John wants to fill this ‘gap in the market’.

First though, he will have to raise the funds to make his ‘dream café’ a reality.

What’s the plan?

The overgrown area outside the building, where it is hoped up to 40 people can be seated, has been cleared and work inside the old block is under way.

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All the electrics and plumbing will have to be renewed, new doors and windows will have to be fitted and then lots of new equipment will have to be installed.

But furnishing the café with a cooker, freezers, fridges, work surfaces, a coffee machine and other appliances required for a professional kitchen will be costly.

John says the council gave the toilets a ‘good clean’ when they were closed more than a decade ago, but the cubical walls will have to be dismantled, before building a new disabled toilet which will be free for all to use.

The pub landlord had put some cash aside for the café, but had to use some of this money to keep The Crown Inn afloat during its closure caused by Covid.

Eager to avoid going into debt, he is asking for help with a fundraising target of £15,000, offering donors freebies from the café once the work is finished.

Manchester city council has now granted planning permission for the project.

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Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, John said he wants to open the café ‘as soon as possible’ – hopefully by the end of this summer.

“We’ve got people in place and a lot of equipment is ready to go,” he said. “We’re nearly there.”

  • Anyone wishing to donate to The Cloakroom Café Crowdfunder should visit here.